Home

Homemade Dog Food Recipes: How to Formulate

I have often said that formulating healthy homemade dog food recipes is difficult. That is why 95% of recipes available online or published are nutritionally inadequate. I would like to give you some insights into homemade dog food recipe formulation by walking you through the process I use for creating nutritionally balanced recipes. This requires that I have two sets of data available to me. The first is the USDA Database for the nutrient contents of food. The second is the National Research Council (NRC) nutritional guidelines for dogs and cats.

95% of recipes available online or published are nutritionally inadequate.

 

From the USDA database I am able to determine exactly how much of all 42 essential nutrients are available in any given amount of any food ingredient. The NRC guidelines make sure I choose the amount of that ingredient that meets the necessary daily requirements for dogs. With these tools I am ready to formulate a recipe.

 

  • How Much Protein Does Homemade Dog Food Need?

Initially I choose an initial amount of a meat cut that generally meets total protein requirements for the dog and check if that amount delivers the necessary amounts of all ten essential amino acids. I make adjustments until it meets the necessary amino acid profile and also is enough to satisfy a 21-28% of total recipe calories from protein. For example, chicken breast has twice the amount of the essential amino acid tryptophan as beef. A recipe using beef needs more meat than one using chicken.

 

  • How Much Fat Does Homemade Dog Food Need?

The next step is to determine how much fat must be added to the meat to assure total dietary fat requirements and meet the specific dietary requirements for the essential fats, linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, and the omega-3 fats, alpha-linolenic, DHA and EPA. Using the two databases I am able to determine the exact amount of oils I need to balance the diet. I use corn/canola or soybean and fish oil because these are the richest sources of preformed* essential fatty acids than any other available oils. I try to maintain a fat content that represents 30-38% of total calories from fat.

 

  • How Much Carbohydrate Does Homemade Dog Food Need?

The amount of carbohydrate added is to achieve ideal recipe calorie count. The nutrients that they provide are evaluated using the databases and adjusted so that the addition rounds out the necessary daily nutrient requirements. Typically this represents 40-45% of total recipe calories and helps keep homemade recipes affordable. It also ensures that the delicate calcium:phosphorus ratio is maintained. Excessive protein in the diet can promote phosphorus overload and lead to osteoporosis and soft tissue calcification. Excessive fat in the diet can decrease appetite and lead to malnutrition.

 

I hope this explains why formulating nutritious homemade dog food recipes is more than just throwing a variety of ingredients together and hoping for a good outcome. Proper nutrition is more complicated than that. And nutritional deficiencies take years before clinical symptoms appear and can be confused with other causes. Also this is just one part of recipe formulation. It only balances the macronutrients protein, fat and carbohydrate. Vitamins and minerals are the next phase. Stay tuned for that post.

 

*Preformed means that the fatty acids are ready to use by the body. All other plant oils have undifferentiated linoleic and alpha linolenic acids and no DHA or EPA. That means the body must convert these undifferentiated forms into essential fatty acids. Fat conversion is the most inefficient body function and is dependent on health, age, and sex. It also means that more oil and unnecessary calories must be added to compensate for the inefficient conversion. Using other oil sources means there is no way to know exactly if a dog is getting the proper amount of essential fatty acids.

 

Dr. Ken Tudor,

THE DOG DIETITIAN

Homemade Dog Food Recipes and Supplements

Breed Specific Dog Foods: Do They Really Make a Difference?

Your dog is special. If a pet food company has a food tailored specifically for your dog, you want it, right? Well that is exactly what pet food companies are hoping with their breed specific dog food product lines. But what is special about these diets? How do they target the specific needs of your dog’s breed? Or maybe they don’t. A careful reading of the ingredient list of a popular company’s breed specific diets would suggest that indeed, they aren’t so breed specific.

What Health Benefits Do Breed Specific Diets Have?

Ingredient List of Breed Specific Foods

The following is a list of breeds and the first 11 ingredients in foods specifically formulated for those breeds offered by a major dog food maker.

Beagle

Corn, chicken by-product meal, brewers rice, wheat, corn gluten meal, chicken fat, natural flavors, pea fiber, dried plain beet pulp, wheat gluten, fish oil,

 

Bulldog

Brewers rice, chicken by-product meal, brown rice, wheat gluten, chicken fat, oat groats, natural flavors, pork meal, dried plain beet pulp, fish oil,

Chihuahua

Corn, chicken by-product meal, brewers rice, wheat gluten, oat groats, brown rice, chicken fat, natural flavors, dried plain beet pulp, fish oil,

Cocker Spaniel

Brewers rice, brown rice, chicken by-product meal, oat groats, chicken fat, corn gluten meal, wheat gluten, natural flavors, dried plain beet pulp, fish oil

 

Dachshund

Brewers rice, chicken by-product meal, brown rice, wheat gluten, oat groats, chicken fat, natural flavors, dried plain beet pulp, fish oil

 

German Shepherd

Brewers rice, chicken by-product meal, brown rice, oat groats, chicken fat, pork meal, natural flavors, powdered cellulose, wheat gluten, dried plain beet pulp, fish oil

Labrador Retriever

Chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, brown rice, oat groats, brewers rice, barley, natural flavors, chicken fat, dried plain beet pulp, pea fiber, wheat gluten, pork meal, fish oil

 

Miniature Schnauzer

Brewers rice, chicken by-product meal, brown rice, oat groats, wheat gluten, chicken fat, corn gluten meal, natural flavors, chicory, salt, fish oil

 

Shih T

Brewers rice, brown rice, chicken by-product meal, chicken fat, oat groats, wheat gluten, natural flavors, dried plain beet pulp, powdered cellulose, fish oil

 

Yorkshire Terrier

Brewers rice, brown rice, chicken by-product meal, chicken fat, wheat gluten, corn gluten meal, corn, natural flavors, powdered cellulose, dried plain beet pulp, fish oil

I don’t know about you, but I don’t find any major differences in these ingredients that would indicate breed specificity. And in fact, dog food makers know that there isn’t. We are in the infancy of understanding the dog genetic code and its implications for individual nutrition or nutrigenomics. We are not yet sure how we can feed specifically to turn on the right genes for optimum metabolism and health. As I hope you see, at this time it is more about marketing than about fact.

What Health Benefits Do Breed Specific Diets Have?

You notice all of the diets included fish oil. Fish oil contains the omega-3 fats called DHA and EPA. Research suggests that these to fats help regulate the immune response and reduce the inflammation. That means they help reduce itching for dogs with allergies and symptoms of internal inflammatory conditions like inflammatory bowel diseases. DHA and EPA are thought to also aid neurological development in puppies, reduce joint pain, and reduce dementia in aging dogs.

All of the diets also included vitamin E a powerful antioxidant to protect cells from metabolic damage. Research suggests that antioxidants are a great “brain food” for dogs and help prevent or slow dementia, hearing loss and other age related brain disorders. Vitamin C is also an excellent antioxidant, but was only included in a few of the diets.

If DHA, EPA and antioxidants are helpful for dogs, why aren’t they in all dog foods for all ages? What is so breed specific about that?

The only breed specific ingredients were those targeted for common conditions of certain diseases. For instance, for breeds predisposed to hip dysplasia and other arthritic causing conditions, the food maker adds chondroitin/ glucosamine to lubricate joints and reduce joint pain. However, they add mostly glucosamine, the lubricating chemical. The amount of chondroitin in these diets is 1/12 of that necessary to relive pain.

For those dogs with tendencies to become over weight or have heart disease, L-carnitine is added to the diet. L-carnitine is an amino acid that aids fat transport into the mitochondria of the cell to be burned to produce energy. Research has shown that the addition of L-carnitine to the diet does indeed aid failing hearts and animals on weight loss programs. But they only help if the animal has those problems. Healthy animals probably derive little extra benefit. And their addition to the diet won’t prevent the conditions form developing. But that is exactly what the company wants you to believe. That is what is behind their marketing concept of breed specific diets.

Homemade Dog Food

At this point in time, purchasing breed specific commercial dog food is a waste of money. There is no “breed benefit” worth the extra cost. The best dog food is homemade dog food. Homemade recipe ingredients can be manipulated to meet the specific needs of individual dogs with breed associated medical conditions. No food can prevent the eventuality of breed specific medical conditions at the present time. But homemade is a far better approach to treating existing conditions.

Dr. Ken Tudor,

THE DOG DIETITIAN

Homemade Dog Food Recipes and Supplements

Antibiotic Resistance: How to Protect Your Dog

The discovery of penicillin in 1928 and its large scale use in US military personnel during World War II revolutionized medicine and human animal health worldwide. Since then large pharmaceutical companies have discovered and developed nearly 150 antibiotics drugs. Now, the overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals has created worldwide growth of “super bugs” or bacteria that are resistant to antibiotic therapy. World health of humans and animals is now threatened by these same “miracle drugs.” Despite the enormity of the problem there are things you can do to protect your dog.

 Feeding-Trough-650px

The Scope of Antibiotic Resistance

This year the World Health Organization published a report that surveyed 114 countries’ medical data about bacterial resistance. Here is a summary of the major findings:

 

  • 50% of bacteria in many countries were resistant to antibiotics commonly used to treat such infections
  • Life threatening bacteria like coli, Staphylococcus and Klebsiella are now resistant to the last drug of resort
  • 20% of countries report coli bacteria resistant to the most commonly used drug for treatment
  • Accelerated use of antibiotics in animals:

 

“In many countries, the total amount of antibiotics use in animals (both food-producing and companion animals), measured as gross weight, exceeds the quantity used in the treatment of disease in humans.”

 

  • The use of the same drugs for human disease also used to treat animal disease, especially food- producing animals, contributes to cross species drug resistance
  • Food animals share common bacteria with humans and pets so resistant strains can be transferred through food

 

Present Solutions to Antibiotic Resistance

Presently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have asked pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily withdraw approval of antibiotics used to promote growth and feed efficiency in livestock. 24 companies have agreed. The FDA threatens further regulation against non-compliance.

 

What You Can Do

  • Ask your veterinarian if and why antibiotics are essential for your dog’s medical treatment
  • Purchase dog foods that use antibiotic-free meat sources
  • Use antibiotic-free meat in your homemade dog food
  • Feed your dog a complete and balanced diet to promote maximum health and reduce illness needing treatment

Include:

  • Antioxidants vitamin C and E for maximum cell health
  • Anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats for optimal immune function
  • Promote a healthy lifestyle for your dog to also reduce illness needing treatment
  • Feed to avoid weight gain and maintain an ideal fit body condition
  • Provide 40-60 minutes of daily, vigorous exercise

 

Dr. Ken Tudor,

THE DOG DIETITIAN

Homemade Dog Food Recipes and Supplements

Why Blood Work Can’t Evaluate Homemade Dog Food

The last two posts have highlighted my worry of a potential surge in medical problems in dogs caused by improperly formulated homemade dog food. My concern in writing the articles was that the various strategies of those feeding homemade were based on assumptions that would necessarily lead to unbalanced diets. Moreover, 95% of all homemade dog food recipes found online and in popular books have been shown to be nutritionally inadequate. Thoughtful comments from a reader highlighted why routine veterinary monitoring, especially blood tests, will not detect most dietary insufficiencies.

 Blood Test Can't Detect Nutrition Deficiencies

What Are the Essential Nutrients for Dogs?

Daily dogs need adequate quantities of:

  • Total Protein and Specific Amino Acids (from protein) – arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine. methionine, phenylalanine, taurine, threonine, tryptophan, valine
  • Total Fat and Specific Fatty Acids – linoleic acid, alpha linolenic acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenic acid (EPA)
  • Vitamins – A, D, E, K, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid) and B12 (cobalamin)
  • Minerals– calcium, chloride, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium and zinc

What Routine Canine Blood Tests Do Not Include:

  • No measurements of essential amino acids
  • No measurements of total dietary fat or specific essential fatty acids
  • No measurements of any vitamins
  • No measurements of 6 of the 12 essential minerals

What Do Routine Canine Blood Tests Evaluate?

Complete Blood Count (CBC): Measures the number, size and hemoglobin (molecule responsible for transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide) content; the number and type of infection fighting white blood cells; the number of platelet cells (important for clotting). Certain types of anemia, or decreased red blood cells, can suggest iron or vitamin B12 deficiencies.

Serum Biochemistry: Evaluates liver, kidney, and pancreas function; measures cholesterol, total blood protein, albumin (protein important for retaining water in blood vessels), glucose, chloride, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and thyroid hormone.

Why Are Routine Blood Test Inadequate to Evaluate the Diet?

  • As you can see blood levels of very few nutrients are included in routine blood tests. Each nutrient requires individual tests that are more expensive the entire routine blood panel.
  • With the exception of iron or vitamin B12 deficiencies, a CBC tells little about dietary balance.
  • Constant blood levels of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium are necessary for heart and nerve function. Dietary deficiencies will cause a release in hormones to dissolve bone to maintain vital blood levels. Uncorrected this will result in eventual osteoporosis but the blood work will always be normal until all bone is gone. The condition is generally diagnosed by x-rays because a dog spontaneously breaks one or several bones or is showing severe weakness.

 

Blood vessels must maintain a certain level of protein or water will leak from the veins into the abdominal or thoracic cavity. Muscle provides an adequate source of protein if the diet does not contain adequate amounts. The body will continue to take protein from muscle to maintain adequate blood amounts. Low levels of protein in the blood will not show-up until muscle is depleted to critically low levels.

Potassium, sodium and chloride levels are also important for heart, nerve and other body functions so the body will maintain deficiencies in the diet by altering kidney function to reabsorb these minerals from the urine. It is not until very late stages of deficiency when heart, nerve and other organs fail that indications of deficiency may be suspected. But it cannot be proved by the blood tests.

Taurine deficiency causes congestive heart failure like that in the bulldog on an incomplete vegan diet. On admission to the emergency hospital the routine blood work was normal and it required an echocardiogram and a special test for taurine levels to diagnosis the dietary deficiency.

I could go on with other examples, but I think you probably get the point.

The Bottom Line

I did not write these posts to discourage homemade dog food. Quality, nutritious homemade dog food is my business because I think it is the best dog food. The point is that deficient homemade diets cannot be detected by routine veterinary monitoring and are generally discovered after a problem arises to a critical level. Nutritious homemade diets are not as easy to formulate as internet chatter would suggest. Providers of homemade recipes should be able to demonstrate the exact amount of all 42 daily essential nutrients in recipes and supplement recommendations. We do that with all of our recipes and hope others will also.

~Dr Ken Tudor,

THE DOG DIETITIAN

Homemade Dog Food Recipes and Supplements

The Pending Health Epidemic for Dogs: Unhealthy Homemade Dog Food – Part 2

Last week I shared my fears of a coming health epidemic among dogs as a result of unhealthy homemade dog food diets. Despite the best intentions to offer their dogs the best dog food, owners are unwittingly depriving their dogs of vital nutrition. We have been told that a variety of wholesome foods rich in various nutrients will make yourself and your dog healthy. But variety and “rich in” is not the same as adequate or sufficient. In fact, it isn’t even close. But an even greater epidemic threat is not from those feeding entirely unhealthy homemade dog food, but from those feeding unhealthy hybrid homemade diets.

 DogMask550px

What is Hybrid Homemade Dog Food?

Hybrid homemade dog food is a combination of homemade ingredients and commercial dog food. Most dog owners that feed this way, supplement a basic meat and carbohydrate diet (chicken breast and rice) with small amounts of dry or canned commercial dog food.  Others follow a program suggested by a celebrity veterinarian and feed exclusively commercial dog food part of the week and any combination of people food the rest of the week. The belief in these approaches is that the commercial food will provide the nutritional needs not met by the people food.

 

How Do They Make Dog Food?

Commercial dog food is required to be formulated in a specific way. It must be made so that when a dog is fed its needed number of calories it will also receive its daily requirement for all 42 necessary nutrients. The food is not super fortified. Unless the dog eats its entire calorie allotment it will not get the necessary amounts of essential amino acids, fats, vitamins and minerals. I hope you see the problem.

 

If a dog is fed mainly chicken and rice, the small amount of supplemented commercial food will not fill the nutritional void. The diets are deficient in vitamins and minerals. These dogs may develop osteoporosis due to inadequate dietary calcium, possible muscle wasting due to inadequate amino acids and eventually poor immune response with susceptibility to infections and decreased skin and fur quality.

 

Feeding adequate amounts of commercial dog food and supplementing with people food is equally unhealthy. If a dog receives the proper amount of calories of commercial dog food, it will receive all of the necessary nutrients. If people food is added then excess calories are added to the diet. This promotes weight gain and the many medical problems associated with the overweight or obese condition.

 

What is the Best Homemade Dog Food?

As you can see from these two blogs, feeding healthy homemade dog food is not easy. Dog owners need recipe and supplement recommendations from veterinarians that can offer proof that their formulas meet the necessary daily nutrient requirements. As mentioned in the previous post 95% of all homemade recipes online and in popular books are nutritionally inadequate. Your dog deserves better than just being another statistical casualty of unhealthy homemade. The link below can help you provide your dog with not only completely balanced homemade dog food but a diet formulated to maximize the health and prolong the life of your dog.

 

~Dr Ken Tudor,

THE DOG DIETITIAN

Homemade Dog Food Recipes and Supplements

The Pending Health Epidemic for Dogs: Unhealthy Homemade Dog Food – Part 1

In and earlier blog I featured a story of an English Bulldog that was admitted to an emergency referral veterinary hospital in congestive heart failure. The reason for the heart failure was a lack of the amino acid taurine in his diet. His owners had been feeding a vegan, hypoallergenic recipe that they found on the internet for the previous two years.

I recently talked to an emergency hospital veterinarian who said she was seeing an increasing number of puppies that were suffering skeletal problems due to inadequate homemade diets. The puppies are so calcium depleted that their bones are like rubber and they cannot play, walk or even eat. The condition called osteomalacia is so severe in many of her cases, that she has been forced to recommend euthanasia to alleviate suffering that can’t be reversed by calcium supplementation. It is simply too late to overcome the months of calcium deficiency.

IV-Dog-650px

The massive pet food recalls for melamine contamination in 2007 frightened many pet owners from commercial pet food. They reasoned that any homemade preparations they fed would certainly be safer than the commercial products. Since then large numbers of recipe books for homemade dog food continue to be published yearly. The internet is clogged with the same types of recipes. As a result, in the last few years more and more veterinarians are seeing health problems related to homemade diets. Studies have confirmed 95% of homemade recipes are nutritionally inadequate, especially those offered by non-veterinarians. And like the Bulldog mentioned above, it generally takes years of malnutrition before the problem is evident, which in many cases, may be too late.

Pet owners further believe that a variety of foods will fill all the nutritional needs of dogs. So like they feed themselves, they can use a variety from the food pyramid and things should be fine. After all, we are told and believe that so many vegetable are “rich” in certain nutrients. I have had conversations with dog owners who insist that kale with their chicken and rice base homemade dog food provides all the necessary calcium because MD’s say kale is rich in calcium. Rich is a comparative term, rich compared to what?

For instance it would take 18 cups of cooked kale or 19 cups of chopped raw kale per 1000 calories (homemade diets are formulated based on the nutrient requirement for 1000 calories and dogs are then fed the appropriate number of calories for their ideal weight) of food per day to meet a dog’s calcium needs.

19-cups-Kale-in-Basket-650px

 

The same is said for spinach which is rich in iron. 9 cups of cooked or 28 cups of raw spinach will certainly deliver the daily amount of iron needed daily, if your dog can eat that much.

Spinach-Baskets-650px

 

For liver which is thought to be the richest source of iron, homemade dog food would require 6 ½ cooked ounces per day. Unfortunately this would also add levels of vitamin A that can be toxic to the liver.

Live--LIver-650px

 

Rich does not mean adequate or even close to adequate, it only means more than something else.

You might say well that is ridiculous and adding a variety of foods rich in nutrients reduces the amount of each nutrient and would result in a healthy diet.

  • But how much of each do you add?
  • Do you know the contents of every nutrient for every food so you know how to portion the various ingredients?
  • How much spinach to how much liver?
  • Do you know what the contents of the varieties of foods you choose as substitutes?

Your dog may not show any symptoms now but what about years from now when nutrient deficiencies begin to appear if you guessed wrong about the amount of ingredients?

Formulating a healthy homemade dog food diet is not easy, only by knowing that all 42 nutrients are present in the correct amounts can you be sure of long term healthy diet. The recipes you select should spell out that information – if they don’t you are simply left to guess.

Don’t let your dog be a victim of an accelerating epidemic trend.

~Dr Ken Tudor,

THE DOG DIETITIAN

 Homemade Dog Food Recipes and Supplements

My Dog Isn’t Eating: What’s Wrong?

 

I have had clients bring dogs to the hospital because they were worried when it didn’t eat breakfast. I have had other owners bring in dogs that hadn’t eaten in weeks. And then there have been the countless dogs that were somewhere in between missing one meal to many meals. And always the two questions are the same no matter what the situation “What is wrong with my dog” and “How long can it go without eating?”  The assumption for the questions of course, is there must be a single cause for not eating or inappetence and a time period that is dangerous for survival. Unfortunately this symptom is the least informative, only surpassed by ADR or ain’t doing right. Fortunately, going without food is far less serious than going without water.

 What to do when dog won't eat

Causes of Inappetence

Symptoms are only signs that a problem exists, not the problem itself. Not eating can be caused by the following list and more:

  • Primary oral disease ( gingivitis, periodontitis, infection)
  • Secondary oral disease ( kidney disease, oral cancer, foreign body, infection, viral disease)
  • Esophagus (irritation, inflammation, foreign bodies)
  • Stomach problems (reflux, ulcers, outflow problems, tumors, obstruction, and inflammation)
  • Intestinal problems (dietary indiscretion, foreign bodies, obstruction, tumors and inflammation)
  • Pancreas and Liver problems
  • Anemia, infection
  • Behavior (weather conditions, fear, competition with house mates, anxiety, etc.)
  • Other medical problems (cancer, hormonal conditions, neurological)
  • ADR (Ain’t Doin’ Right)

 

So how do we vets find out why your dog isn’t eating? We have to examine, run test, perform x-rays, ultrasound and possibly even more advanced diagnostic tests and procedures. All of these procedures are to try and find a cause for not eating. The alternative is to give appetite stimulants and see if appetite returns spontaneously. This is clearly the less desirable choice but in some economic situations is the only feasible alternative.

 

How Long Can My Dog Go Without Eating?

Not drinking water is a problem after only 1 day. Not eating reduces body functions, especially the immune system, and can be harmful after a period of 4-7 days. Although dogs can survive much longer periods of time without food, the consequences can be significant. Muscle is lost and contributes to significant weight loss. This can also contribute to further inappetence. So what are rational guidelines?

 

Missing one meal or not eating for 1 day does not necessitate a veterinary visit. Two to three days of consistent inappetence requires veterinary intervention because something is wrong. It may not be serious or it may be very serious. The good news is that most causes of not eating are typically easy to resolve, eventually.

 

~Dr Ken Tudor

THE DOG DIETITIAN

 Homemade Dog Food Recipes and Supplements

How to Judge the Best Dog Food: It is Child’s Play, Really

Do you remember that stage in your child’s life when they asked “but why” or “how” to every questioned you answered for them. Remember how the chain would go on and on as they tried to process and categorize the information. In this age of information overload we can learn a lot from our children’s interrogation methods. This is especially true when it comes to fad dog food trends like dog lifestyle foods, dog breed specific foods and hypoallergenic dog foods. It seems that commercial dog food makers, celebrities, internet websites and others are constantly blasting us with “must eat” foods to ensure the health of our dogs. But, why must they eat them? How are they miraculous? We need to put on our “child goggles” to evaluate these claims.

 Girl Feeding Dog - How to Judge What is the Best Dog Food

Why Do We Eat? It is not food dogs need. It is what is in food that they need. That grain-free, age appropriate food and breed specific medical condition diet will never reach the intestines in whole form. Starting at the mouth then to the stomach and finally into the intestines, this healthy meal will be broken down into basic microscopic parts. Namely, amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, chains of fatty acids, simple sugars, vitamins, minerals and other chemicals. Nothing will be left whole. Only the molecules are absorbed through the intestinal walls and into the blood stream to be used by all of the body cells. Those molecules that the body doesn’t need will leave in the urine or poop. This process is what we need to keep in mind when we evaluate fad foods for our dogs. It is not a particular food that is important, only what particular stuff is in that food and what the body does with it.

How the “Child Goggles” Work   Now we know it is what is in food that is important, let’s put on our child goggles and look at age specific, breed specific and hypoallergenic diets. We are told that our dogs’ need this food because it is formulated for senior life changes and supports joint health. The breed specific diets tout more or less of certain ingredients that are important for specific medical conditions that certain breeds are prone too. And hypoallergenic dog food will help all dogs with skin problems. Is this sounding familiar? Let the child in you take over.

  • Why do I need to feed my older dog differently?
  • What exactly do senior dogs need that normal, younger dogs don’t need?
  • How do I know my dog has a problem that these foods address?
  • If my dog has a problem will this food make it better?
  • What is in the food that helps joints?
  • Are the amounts in the food at levels known to really help?
  • Is there any proof that this stuff works?
  • What does this breed specific food help?
  • Does it prevent my dog from getting the genetic diseases that the food was designed for?
  • What if my dog does not have the breed specific disease?
  • Why does he need less or more of these ingredients?
  • Are the adjusted amounts in levels that really make a difference?
  • What makes this diet hypoallergenic?
  • Will it prevent allergies?
  • Can it really prevent itching?
  • How does it help?
  • Why or why not?

We need to question just like a child and we need to let every question lead to another and another in order to evaluate our dog’s food. Just because it was said, and even said by a doctor, doesn’t make it so. Just ask any child.

~Dr Ken Tudor,

THE DOG DIETITIAN

Homemade Dog Food Recipes and Supplements

A Homemade Dog Food Challenge: Dogs with Special but Conflicting Dietary Needs

A client that was recently referred to me by her veterinarian wanted me to formulate homemade dog food that would help manage her dog’s advanced kidney disease. In preparation for her consultation appointment, I gathered the necessary information over the phone that I needed in order to have some recipes ready for her dog.

 Patients with kidney disease need a protein restricted diet to minimize blood ammonia levels.

Patients with kidney disease need a protein restricted diet to minimize blood ammonia levels. When protein is broken down by the body it produces ammonia that is changed to a less toxic chemical in the liver called urea. In normal patients, the blood urea is eliminated from the body by the kidneys. Pets with kidney disease cannot eliminate urea effectively and urea levels increase in the blood. This increase results in decreased appetite and activity, vomiting and even painful sores in the mouth that causes drooling and refusal to eat altogether.

 

By restricting protein levels in the diet, the blood urea can be maintained at more tolerable levels so the pet acts and eats normally. The decreased protein also reduces phosphorus levels in the blood and slows the deterioration of the kidneys. Low protein diets are high in fat and carbohydrates which provide taste and calories without creating any ammonia. It was these types of homemade recipes that I presented to my new client at her consultation. As I explained the rationale of the recipe to the owner, she interrupted to tell me that she forgot to tell me her dog also had frequent bouts of pancreatitis. My jaw dropped and I fell silent for a short period. She had just rendered my recipes worthless for her dog.

 

Pancreatitis is a mysterious inflammation of the pancreas that it often associated with the consumption of high levels of fat. It causes severe abdominal pain and vomiting. Pets require hospitalization with fluid therapy until the episode slowly resolves. Food is generally withheld for 2-3 days. The condition is managed by commercial or homemade diets that have minimal fat in them.

 

My challenge now was to design homemade food that had minimal protein and fat, conflicting needs. The bulk of the calories needed to come from carbohydrates- the ingredient that dogs least prefer. Carbohydrates contain less than half the calories of fat for the same quantity. That means diets low in fat must contain lots of carbohydrates. Like us, dogs quickly tire of carbohydrates as the major portion of their diet. Protein and fats taste better. “Food fatigue” is common with dogs on carbohydrate rich diets. It is not uncommon for these pets to need frequent changes made to recipes to keep them interested in food.

 

Although these diets are challenging, the abundance of foods available for designing homemade diets makes it possible. Commercial special diets are much more limited in ingredient selection and the main reason owners of pets with special medical needs seek homemade diets. Their dogs simply don’t like the limited commercial choices. And few commercial diets are available for pets with conflicting medical needs.

 

I re-worked the recipes for my client’s dog. Now, I only await future calls from her for recipes with different ingredients.

Related article

 

~Dr Ken Tudor

The Dog Dietitian

Homemade Dog Food Recipes and Supplements